PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The 2002 women's volleyball season begins for Plymouth State College this weekend when the Panthers host the Super 8 Invitational Tournament at Foley Gymnasium.
Six teams will be involved in the season-opening tourney - Johnson and Wales University, Mount Holyoke College, Pine Manor College, Rivier College, Western New England College and PSC. Pool play starts at 5:00 p.m. on Friday and continues at 7:00 p.m. Saturday's competition includes more pool play at 9:00 a.m., followed by the semifinal round at 11:00 a.m. and the consolation and championship rounds at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.
The event is the first of five regular season tournaments in which the Panthers will play this fall, concluding with the regular season finale at Brandeis University the first weekend in November. PSC will also play seven Little East Conference matches leading into the annual LEC Tournament the second week in November, hoping to capture its first LEC Championship. The conference champion receives an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
2002 PSC Women's Volleyball Outlook
Plymouth State returns nearly its entire team from 2001, and fifth-year head coach Moira Long is optimistic that the Panthers can challenge for the LEC championship and the first post-season appearance in school history.
"Like any year, our goal is the win the conference, and this year that is a realistic goal," said Long. "We didn't graduate anyone, and with some strong newcomers, we believe we can make a run at the title."
The only loss from last year is three-time All-LEC First Team hitter Carin LaValley (Northfield, N.H.), who will miss the season while recovering from off-season knee surgery.
"Naturally, we will miss Carin, because she's one of the top players in the conference," said Long. "But even without her, we're very confident with the players we will put out on the court. We have other strengths outside of Carin. We showed that after she got hurt last year."
The Panthers will look to junior Becky Landry (Nashua, N.H.), a two-time All-LEC middle hitter. She is a former LEC Rookie of the Year who has proven herself in both hitting and blocking. Junior co-captain Sonia Trudell (Somersworth, N.H.) also gives PSC a strong outside hitter, and will be a key contributor to the team this fall.
"Becky is just a dominant player," said Long, "and Sonia came into her own last season. I expect they will be big players for us again this season."
A big factor in the offense is the skill and experience of senior co-captain Jessie O'Hearn (Tilton, N.H.), who is now in her third season as the starting setter. She owns all of PSC's records for assists, and is comfortable running the offense.
"Jessie doesn't get the credit she deserves," said Long. "She knows who needs the ball, and she makes great decisions. She knows what we need to do to be successful, and we just allow her to run the offense."
PSC has the best defensive player in the conference in junior Amber Greenlaw (Gilford, N.H.), according to Long. She earned First Team All-LEC honors last season as a defensive specialist.
"She has passion and court-sense and reads the hitters well," said Long, "and with the new libero rules, we can have her on the floor almost every play."
The other key returning veterans include junior outside hitters Joanna Brothers (Meredith, N.H.) and Kate Shirey (Amherst, N.H.), who can contribute with both hitting and blocking skills, and junior defensive specialist Megan O'Connor (Rochester, N.Y.). The top newcomer should be freshman outside hitter Kelly Landry (Nashua, N.H.).
"We've been in the top two or three of our conference for a few years now," said Long, "and I think we're ready to take the next step. We'll be striving to win our first conference championship."